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Central Africa faces ‘turning point’ amid multiple crises

A woman crosses a bridge in Bambari, in the Central African Republic.
© UNOCHA/Siegfried Modola
A woman crosses a bridge in Bambari, in the Central African Republic.

Central Africa faces ‘turning point’ amid multiple crises

Peace and Security

Despite critical gains by Central African nations in advancing stability and cooperation, the region faces multiple crises, and the coming months mark “an important turning point”, the top UN official there told the Security Council on Monday.

“Central Africa is richer in opportunities and resources than it is in challenges”, but, the coming months will mark “an important turning point” for the region, where crucial political and electoral processes must take place by the end of the year, said Abdou Abarry, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa.

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“We will ensure, with the Security Council’s valuable support, that the episodes of violence, fuelled in particular by hate speech, which have marred elections in the past, are avoided at all costs,” said Mr. Abarry, who also heads the UN Regional Office, UNOCA. “The peace and stability of the subregion are at stake.”

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on developments in Central Africa since his last Council briefing in December, Mr. Abarry said States are making strides in realizing the vision of a “region of prosperity”.

Highlighting successes in resolving tensions, galvanizing reconciliation, and tackling security issues, he commended collective efforts made by leaders of the region, from awareness to act on climate change to fruitful dialogue between Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

‘Devastating’ impact of Sudan crisis

Concerns remain, including a rise in piracy alongside the deep impact of the Sudan conflict and the war in Ukraine, he said.

The ongoing fighting in Sudan is having “devastating humanitarian consequences” for Chad and CAR, he said.

Since fighting broke out between rival military forces in mid-April, an exodus of civilians fleeing the violence has spilled over neighbouring borders. For Chad alone, $129.8 million will be needed to care for an estimated 100,000 refugees for the next six months.

“Recent developments on the border between Chad and CAR and the impact of the Sudanese crisis on these two countries remind us of the urgent need to adopt a holistic approach to issues of peace and security in Central Africa, a region already marked by the presence of a multitude of armed and terrorist groups,” he said.

“Without a swift and peaceful resolution of the conflict, the effects will be disastrous not only for Sudan, but also for all countries in the Lake Chad Basin region,” he cautioned, adding that the recent joint military operations by Chad and CAR on their shared border reflect their desire to strengthen bilateral cooperation to address common security challenges.

Impact of Ukraine war

Central Africa is suffering the impact of the crisis in Ukraine, which is reflected in inflation and rising prices of basic foodstuffs and fuel, sometimes with shortages.

“Although most States have taken measures to mitigate the effects on consumers, we must remain aware that the further deterioration of the socio-economic situation could lead to a rise in the social front that would be detrimental to the stability of countries,” he said.

In 2004 in northern Uganda,  "night commuters" left their homes each night to stay in shelters fearing that children would be forcibly abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). (file)
© UNICEF/Chulho Hyun
In 2004 in northern Uganda, "night commuters" left their homes each night to stay in shelters fearing that children would be forcibly abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). (file)

Upsurge in piracy

The security situation in Central Africa has also been marked by an upsurge in maritime piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, he said.

This trend highlights the need to strengthen interregional cooperation, especially as the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct approaches, he added, reiterating his Office’s readiness to support efforts to strengthen coordination among such stakeholders are the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission.

Addressing root causes

However, as the situation in the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel demonstrates, a purely military response will not be sufficient to address the root causes of insecurity, he said, emphasizing that political and socioeconomic measures are also needed to stop armed groups from exploiting intercommunal conflicts, such as those related to transhumance.

States in the region discussed the cross-border management of the activities of armed groups and related concerns at a recent meeting of the Security Council’s Standing Advisory Committee (UNSAC), he said.

Pledging support for ongoing regional efforts, he said a joint mission is currently being deployed, in partnership with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in the four countries of the Lake Chad Basin to assess the impact of violent extremism on local populations.

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